Hale Cook Elementary School might reopen in 2014, as long as the Waldo- and Brookside-area group that is pushing the effort clears one major hurdle: recruiting new students to the Kansas City district.
For about two years, the nonprofit group Friends of Hale Cook has tried to convince district officials that there was a genuine need for a neighborhood school and, if given the chance, it could breathe new life into the building at 7302 Pennsylvania Ave.
District officials said last week that Hale Cook could reopen if the group, by early May, recruits 50 kindergartners and 25 first-graders who currently don’t attend district schools, a district spokeswoman said.
The pupils in two kindergarten classes and one first-grade class would attend Hartman Elementary School next fall. If those pupils are retained, the district would move them and others into a renovated Hale Cook in fall 2014.
“We know there are good things going on in the district and there are very good teachers and there are very good students,” said Ashley Z. Hand, the group’s chairwoman. “What we need to do as a community is rally around Hale Cook and make it an example of how parent and community involvement can help outcomes in a positive way.”
Eileen Houston-Stewart, the district spokeswoman, said that if the conditions are met, Hale Cook could reopen with students in kindergarten, first and second grades.
“The ultimate goal is to reach a population of students that are not currently enrolled in our district so they would be recruiting new students to Kansas City Public Schools,” Houston-Stewart said. “This would be a pure neighborhood school with the idea that kids in the neighborhood would walk to school.”
Hale Cook closed in 2009, a year before a large number of other district schools were shuttered. In its final years, Hale Cook was a training facility for Montessori teachers. Even when Hale Cook served as an elementary school, many pupils from the surrounding neighborhood attended classes elsewhere.
The Friends of Hale Cook found that fewer than 10 percent of the school-age children in their neighborhoods attended the nearby public schools. Reopening Hale Cook would begin to reverse that trend, Hand said.
“We think this is a very critical opportunity for us to reinvest in our public schools and draw kids back to the district,” she said. “We have worked hard to show parents that we are very serious about getting involved in schools and providing a safety net and engaging our community in the outcomes of public education.”